When Emotions Spiral Out of Control

Today I experienced an intense, extreme emotion.  When I tell you what it is, you may initially wonder why it was a problem.  I pulled out my DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) binder and turned to the Emotion Regulation 4 Handout to help me identify what I was feeling, as I felt overwhelmed and flooded with whatever it was.

The emotion I most identified with was Joy.  A good thing right? Perhaps in moderation and even at a higher intensity if it only lasts a short time...but, for me, the joy turned to a feeling of ecstasy. Still doesn't sound bad, right?  From there it progressed to me feeling very sped up. I was talking faster, thinking faster. Everything around me felt as if it were in slow motion.  I began to then feel irritable, but I couldn't slow myself down.  I began to use whatever skills came to mind to help myself from spiraling. I was scared.

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I sat down and noticed my heart. It was beating very rapidly. I went into Wise Mind and asked myself:

Are you anxious?  No
Have you had any caffeine? No
Have you had any sugar? No

I then turned to my breath. I sat at my desk with my feet on the floor and slowed down my breathing.  I still felt very amped up on the inside, but since I was at work, I did my best to conceal it. I deliberately, though it was difficult and my heart was beating out of my chest, spoke more slowly.  I deliberately focused on others when they spoke to me, and I dived into my work, channeling all of my concentration into my project as best as I could.

The other thing I wanted to do was take a walk, but since it was raining and I had high heeled boots on, this wasn't an option...so I took a few minutes to daydream about how good it would feel to be able to physically release the adrenaline rush I was feeling by moving my body. In retrospect, maybe next time I'll go into the restroom and run in place or do jumping jacks.

I'm starting to wind down now. It's almost dinner time.

I'm looking at my binder, and it seems that there is justification for my joy. I am very excited that my hours have been increased at work.  I have been looking for more structure, and what's better than more structure that brings more pay?

I experienced several of the biological changes that come with feeling joy: "feeling excited, feeling physically energetic/active, feeling like giggling or laughing," but as I became more keyed up, I did not experience some of the other biological changes, such as "feeling at peace, and feeling calm all the way through" (Skills training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Marsha Linehan).

So, even though joy is generally a positive emotion that I do want to experience, when it began to take flight, and I began to feel out of control, I needed to make an active choice to calm down and regain control. Fortunately, my DBT skills came to mind and helped greatly.

Can you tell which ones I used?
Can you relate to sometimes having your feelings of joy and elation become out of control?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


  1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your super skillful ways! I love how you used visualization when the walk wasn't possible! I would not have thought of that!

  2. Oh this has definitely happened for me! It's freaky how you write about things and I completely identify with what you're saying. I have definitely had joy spin out of control. I have previously thought maybe it was tied in to the impulsiveness aspect of BPD but have never been sure. Thanks as always for writing xox

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. Isn't it amazing how much we all share in common? Hugs ♥



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